Recently on a podcast I had with Chad Smith of the Constraints Management Group I asked the question, “Why did McGraw-Hill come to Carol and him to write the new edition of Orlickys Materials Requirements Planning 3/E?” He told a very interesting story which I paraphrase below:
The problem is that the market really doesn’t know how bad the problem is. They don’t really understand why MRP is failing. What the real deficiencies are of MRP. That led us to write a white paper. We wrote a white paper in spring of 2008. We submitted it just on a whim to the APICS organization saying, here’s something that we’ve written. Are you interested?
We got an immediate response back from APICS saying can you condense this a little bit for our magazine? We said sure, we’ll do that. We condensed it and little did we know that it turned out being the cover story for the July/August 2008 edition of the APICS Magazine.
That intrigued us. It told us, wait a minute, there’s something people are resonating with what we’re writing here. APICS sponsored a webinar a couple of weeks later on a topic and 250 companies signed?up. Three weeks later Carol spoke at the APICS conference in Kansas City and there were 350 ? 400 people in the room. There was standing room only.
We got pretty excited because what people told us was the reason why they got so interested in this was because of our depiction of the problem and the fact that the way we described the problem was exactly what they were experiencing. There just didn’t seem to be a fix out there in the industry.
We spent the last couple of years articulating this. We were asked to write a chapter for another book that McGraw-Hill was publishing. Based upon the strength of that chapter, the editors of that book kicked it up to McGraw-Hill and said you really need to take a look at this. This deserves a whole book.
We went round and round with McGraw-Hill a little bit because McGraw-Hill was a little bit worried that people had never really heard of this concept, these new concepts. I agreed the book might not sell well because nobody’s really heard of this new approach to MRP.
They came back and said; “We have this Orlicky book that needs to be updated. Would you like to do that?”
From Carol and my perspective we were like, wow, yes, absolutely. That’s a perfect scenario for us. It allows our message to get into the typical MRP user and even buyer of software so that we can really demonstrate what the problem is and what the direction of the solution is. How we can augment or how we can amend the MRP and ERP for the new century.
What did Carol and Chad do that was so different? Their description of the problem was exactly what customers were experiencing. We spend countless hours on branding, messaging and every other marketing tactic under the sun but do we ever articulate the problem are customers and prospects are having – perfectly?
Brant Cooper wrote a blog post that I had in my archives that stated:
Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an American Architecture and Literary critic, as well as Sociologist and Philosopher. I often attribute a particular quote to Mumford, though I can’t seem to locate the source. When asked where to put a sidewalk, Mumford responds:
“See where the people walk and then pave their path.”
How many times have you seen two sidewalks intersecting at 90 degree angles, with worn grass cutting the corners? There’s a fine line between executing on your vision and listening to your customers. Consider Mumford’s quote, thinking of the sidewalk as the “vision” and the path as “customer needs.”
Best Marketing Advice Ever = Describe the exact problem the customer is having.
The essence of Lean Marketing is defining the problem that you solve from the customers perspective. The better you can articulate that position, the more value you provide to the market place you are serving. The definition of the problem may even be more important than the solution. In fact, you have to be willing to move your solution to pave the path.
Most organizations try to develop marketing plans designed to guide their action for today, tomorrow and in the future. This serves as a platform for their marketing goals. We might even send the goals through the SMART procedure to make sure that they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific.
The problem is that this is mostly internally focused. Sales and Marketing needs to be about the customer, it’s not about us. The old saying, defining the problem correctly is half the battle has never been more accurate. Defining the problem you solve does takes quite a bit of effort (it needs to be done by product (service)/markets). And if the essence of marketing is defining the problem for a customer, the A3 tool provides a structure and a template for achieving this. A3 is a one- page document used to capture the dialogue in a problem solving process. Sending your marketing through such a process will enable you to create the clarity to areas such as CRM, Social Media, Joint Ventures, Client Retention, Client Acquisition, and more. It is a tool that can be used both strategically and tactically. Actually, it has developed in its own right to a thinking process.
Don’t know anything about A3? I just happen to have a book coming out next week that covers this on how it applies to marketing.
Couple of excellent Books on the subject of A3:
Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System
Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process
Are you focusing on your customers conversations?
The Perfect Storm has come together of Excess Capacity and Product Variety
Are you Lean enough to have A3 thinking?
A3 Management Process